Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN a.k.a. the Twin Cities has so many great parks and places to explore with your littles on a sunny summer day! Since the Twin Cities are right in our back yard it makes for a great day trip. I actually just returned from spending three days there with my three littles. I’m going to highlight a few of the fun places that we spent a good chunk of our time at. My kids loved these places and so we felt compelled to share these great Twin Cities parks with you so that you too can experience the fun!
Hyland Lake Park Reserve
Located in the Three Rivers District, this park seems to have access to everything you could want! It is home of the Richardson Nature Center . The center has many different events for families as well as a bunch of fun kits that the kids can borrow to catch bugs, explore the ponds, or go on a bird watching hike.
Along with having a variety of landscapes for walking and picturesque spots for a picnic, the main attraction to this park for us was their massive playground!
I mean seriously massive. This place spans 16,000 square feet and has slides up to 50 feet long!
A word to the wise I would definitely go with man to man coverage on your kids if you are a little more on the cautious side like I am. There is truly something for everyone at this park. I can honestly say I have never been to anything like this before. One look at it and you know why they have won awards for creativity and ingenuity!
There are multiple different play areas that are perfect for different ages and stages.
The toddler park is located to the left and has a small plastic climber with a few small slides. The only downfall to this part is that it is sand which we all know can be a little challenging with littles who love to put everything in their mouths.
At the center is a play set that is the next step up. It’s got a lot of ramps and smaller slides for those kids who are a little too old for the toddler area but not quite ready for all the climbing of the other areas. This was where my two year old found her niche. She could run and climb on everything independently and wasn’t scared of going down any of the slides by herself.
All the other areas of the park are great for stronger, more independent children probably ages 4+ (depending on your child). A large area of the park reminds me of the McDonalds Play Area only on a much larger scale! It has netted tunnels that are a maze to me from down below. My oldest had a heyday climbing through these. Coming back to this park I would make her wear something super bright colored (avoid blue or black clothing-the color of the equipment) so that I could spot her as she spider monkey’s her way through all the netting. At one point I chuckled out loud as a large mass of children were climbing their way through ropes and sitting on a suspended chair because it truly did look like a troop of monkeys!
Good to Know:
- It is completely free!
- Bring lots of help (one adult to one child ratio is best especially with younger children) or try to avoid weekends/holidays where it may be extra busy!
- Establish a meeting spot in case you do get separated.
- Have kids wear bright colored clothing (avoid black or blue).
- They do have a Visitor Center with bathrooms and concessions.
- Pack a lunch, snacks, lots of water or drinks, and of course SUNSCREEN!
- Towels, swimsuts, or a change of clothes may be helpful since there is an area that sprays a mist of water.
- Wear shoes that are good for climbing but that can also get wet. The equipment and floors can get very hot so I would make sure to bring shoes.
- Fenced in with only one exit (whew!)
- Handicap accessible with ramps for wheelchairs and strollers
- Open April through October (weather permitting) 9 a.m. to sunset
Central Park of Maple Grove
12000 Central Park Way
Maple Grove, MN
I can’t even begin to express how much fun the Central Park of Maple Grove is and how nice it is!
Let’s start out with the interactive fountains, a 2,100 sq. ft. area with 49 jet sprays and 18 arching sprays. It is a hot day haven for kids and parents alike! This feature is free and open seven days a week starting at 10 a.m. Bring swimming suits and towels and use their clean restroom facilities to change before heading home!
Fun fact: It goes into show mode from 8:45-10:00 p.m. where the fountains light up with different colors!
Next to the fountains is the playground with seven play zones, 24-foot climbing tower with tunnel slides, a hillside slide area, a 3 unique swing including one that was like a teeter-totter swing (I seriously considered making my sister try that one out with me!), and a 120-foot long climbing wall. This park is customized with unique play equipment you won’t find anywhere else. It really is almost like a piece of art! Most of the area is rubberized so I would advise good play shoes since it does get very hot! A few areas are sand which can be a little tricky if you are still wet from playing in the fountains.
I want to go back in the winter to try out their LED lit 810 feet long ice skating loop! Check back and who knows maybe I’ll update you on this park’s winter features!
Good to know:
- There is a picnic area as well as a lot of beautiful green space if you want to pack a lunch or snack.
- They do have a small concession stand inside near the restrooms.
- Be prepared with good shoes and sunscreen since there isn’t much shade so the ground gets hot and the sun is strong!
- Changing areas and restrooms are available.
Van Cleve Park
901 15th Ave. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
In the heart of Minneapolis is a little park with a great wading pool for little ones. At it’s deepest it is 2 feet deep, perfect for little swimmers! It is open daily from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and will stay open till 10 p.m. if the temperature is over 85 degrees at 6:00 p.m. They do have a playground and toddler playground but truly the best part about this park in the summer is the wading pool! It is free for anyone to use and has been newly remodeled. Best of all, it isn’t crazy busy like a lot of the other parks I have mentioned so you can have a more intimate and relaxing time with your family.
(And it might just be on my winter ice skating list as well since they too have a rink in the winter!)
I’m always surprised with the number of people that haven’t been to Como Park Zoo! We frequent it multiple times a year and are always please with our visit! It is a free zoo (donation based $3 for adult and $2 for children is suggested). Como is filled with elaborate gardens including a fun butterfly garden with moths, I kid you not, as big as birds, an amusement park, a splash zone, and of course a variety of animals! Every time we go we are pleasantly surprised with how active and engaging the animals are! The monkeys and gorillas are sure to put on a fun little show for you as they play together. And of course there is a whole carnival, amusement park with a splash pad to explore as well!
Before you go be sure to check out their website to find out what unique programs they are offering that day!
Good to know:
- You can pack a cooler with drinks and food.
- They do have a restaurant and concession stands.
- Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen!
- Strollers and wheelchairs are available to rent. Single strollers and wheelchairs are $5/day and double strollers are $8/day. Electric scooters are also available for $20/day.
- There are multiple bathrooms throughout the area.
- It is open every day of the year! (April-September 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and October-March 10 a.m.-4 p.m.)
- Also in the area is Lake Como, mini-golf, a pool, and picnic areas!
Elm Creek Park Reserve
Elm Creek is the largest park in the Three Rivers Area. It has a wide range of things to offer including a whole area dedicated to disc golf, a nature center, an archery range and a swimming pond!
The play area itself is one of the largest in the state and offers something for each age group. It opened in 2011 and was a $1.2 million project, just to put it in perspective a little…
It is sectioned off into seven play zone which does make it a little harder to watch multiple children if they all want to be in different areas. I will say though I saw play equipment here that once again I’ve never seen before in my life and it had me wishing I was a kid again! It is designed to inspire creativity and imagination while exercising and strengthening gross motors muscles. For example, it has a 30 ft. dinosaur buried in the sand to climb and explore!
Take for example this awesome skateboard track:
If you haven’t explored this park, I highly suggest you give it a go! And plan for an all day event! There is plenty to do to keep everyone busy!
Good to know:
- There are bathroom facilities right near the park in two different locations.
- Picnic tables are around for adults to sit and relax or for a little lunch/snack break.
- The play area is entirely wheelchair accessible!!!
- The swimming area is located just to the right of the playground area.
- You may want to bring your swimsuits and towels if you would like to partake in the swimming pond. It does cost $5 per person ages 1 and up to swim at the beach. But it is a very clean (chlorinated and filtered) water and beach to spend the afternoon. The water gradually increases from zero feet to six feet deep. It also has facilities located at the beach area for restrooms, changing, and concessions. There is a lifeguard on duty at the lifeguard stand. It is open Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend.
- The swimming area has a wheel chair ramp into the three feet deep area and you can rent floating beach chairs.
Future Parks we will be visiting:
- Centennial Lakes
Check back or subscribe so you don’t miss out on info on these parks when we go try them out! And of course be looking for more about our winter adventures as well!